Spain, Portugal


Identify your ancestors city of birth or last foreign residence. Check the following:

  • US marriage applications
  • Delayed birth registrations
  • Church records
  • Obituaries
  • Passenger lists or border crossings
  • Naturalization paperwork
  • Passport applications
  • Alien Registrations (after 1940)

Catholicism was the religion in Spain and Portugal for hundreds of years. The church kept records dating to the 1500s

Naming Conventions

Individuals use both maternal and paternal surnames. The paternal surname traditionally comes first.When a woman marries she keeps her full name. She may add her husband’s paternal surname. Look for a name following de, de la or del. For example:

  • Mary Jones Smith de Brian
    • Jones is her mother’s surname
    • Smith is her father’s surname
    • Brian is her husband’s paternal surname


Availability and accessibility of Spanish government records varies by municipality and era

Most Spanish civil registrations are still in municipal archives and haven’t been filmed or indexed. However, a growing number of documents are available through FamilySearch


Parishes are the basic unit of government. They are grouped into councils, several of which make up districts. Visit this website for a guide. This website is in Portuguese

Portuguese government seized ecclesiastical records in 1910, so you will find church records included with civil records at district and national archives

Tombo contains Portuguese Parish Records with great resource for records prior to 1911 and contains links to the Archival District who can assist with area specific research

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